In Fall of 2012, we fell in love with a little girl. At the time she was two and a half years old, and aside from having Down syndrome, was perfectly healthy.
We had three referral photos of this little hairless beauty, and a file that described a girl with spunk and joy and a zest for life. We fell in love. Without a dossier in China, we went ahead and requested preapproval for Meng, and on October 23, 2012, China said we could have her, as long as our dossier was logged in within 6 months.
We had 6 months, but we sprinted. I had a goal of being “Logged In” by New Years (two months time). I didn’t want her in an orphanage any longer than she needed to be, I wanted her here – with us. But first we had to be logged in. Our dossier, and the roughly 8.5 million pages it contained made it to China in January, just barely past my goal. And then we waited, and waited, and waited. Our next step was “LOA” – our Letter of Acceptance or Letter Seeking Confirmation (LSC). Our agency had a policy discouraging care packages and communication before this LOA date.
I got wind of a family visiting her orphanage, though, in early March — prior to our LOA date. I emailed them right away and said “Please, ask about Meng. Try to take some pictures for us.”
When you’ve been living off of 3 photos for the last 5 months, pictures are like gold. You’re hungry for any information about this child you’ve been dreaming of. The family did indeed find Meng at the orphanage, and did take photos. On March 18, I emailed them and included the referral photos of Meghan. The email I sent read “Let me know if these photos come through. They were taken in July, so I assume she looks a little older – and maybe even has some hair! Thanks SO much!!!”
On March 19th, we got an emergency update from our adoption agency that due to pyloric stenosis, Meghan was somewhat malnourished.
On March 22nd, the family that visited her orphanage emailed us the photos they had of our now 3 year old girl, taken approximately 8 months after her referral photo.
Is that a beautiful girl, or what?
She still had a long way to go. The malnourishment had taken it’s toll on her body, to be sure. One of the first emails we sent upon our return to the U.S. was to our minister, detailing the numerous medical appointments and doctor’s visits we had in the coming days and weeks (13 different specialists, if memory serves!). She was a scared little bean of a girl, so we made certain to reiterate that we were focused on her attachment and health, asked him for his prayers for our family, and assured him that we looked forward to returning to the congregation soon. We knew we needed the love, support, and prayers of our church to get us through the coming weeks ahead! We focused all our attention on her; she was glued to my or my husband’s side for weeks; in fact it wasn’t until last month that he and I finally ventured out alone without her – for about 2 hours.
The specialists almost all had wonderful news for us. And then the therapies began. Oh, the therapies. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, feeding therapy. She needed to learn to crawl, to walk, to chew. And we loved on her. Oh, we loved on her. And she grew.
And she grew…..
…And she grew….
…And she blossomed….
The little girl who was so very much locked away in her own mind at “Gotcha Day” – bloomed before our eyes. Almost 5 months home, and she’s so close to walking without assistance that she looks at me like I’m crazy when I try to put her in her walker.
Her transformation has been such a joy to watch unfold. But like all things worth doing – it has been hard. It has been exhausting. There have been days I’m so emotionally and mentally drained by the end – but those days are fewer and farther between. There are days I wonder what her future looks like, how far she’ll “go.” But on Tuesday, our family was blessed with an electronic package. It included some of her medical files, some photos of our beauty during her time at Maria’s, and….. her admission photo. Knowing she was 13 lbs just 10 months ago was hard enough. But seeing it? SEEING what 13 lbs looks like on a 3+ year old? It took my breath away, tears filled my eyes, and I literally trembled in grief for my baby girl. This was a girl who was dedicating every ounce of her being to surviving. That little wound you see on her chin? That’s from gnawing on her lower lip until it bled. Her thumbs have similar gouges in the photos – from where she chewed on them until they bled (easier to see in other views). In our early days with her, any degree of stress led to her chewing and gnawing on herself. Those behaviors are gone, but she still has some scars. Seeing what she had done to herself during that stressful time — and more importantly seeing what had happened to her in the months leading up to the move — was almost more than my heart could take.
What broke my hear the most was knowing that if we – or another family – hadn’t stepped forward for this precious, precious girl when we did….she would have died and nobody would have known, and nobody would have cared. The world would go on as though she had never existed. But she matters. She is loved. She belongs. I can’t help but believe that God has big plans for our little girl, and I’m so thankful that He has allowed us to play a part in her life.
Miss Meghan, you are treasured.